The Freedom To Offend

Chicago Defender: A billboard along the Dan Ryan Expressway touting radio shock jock Howard Stern’s move to satellite radio next month has raised the ire of St. Sabina’s leader, the Rev. Michael Pfleger.
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The billboard, located on 86th and Lafayette, features a Black fist with the headline: “Let Freedom Ring and Let it be Rung By a Stripper.” The ad promotes Stern’s radio show moving from broadcast stations to satellite on Jan. 9.
“I am not surprised about Howard Stern, but am surprised with Viacom. The billboard is in bad taste.”
Viacom, one of the world’s largest media companies, owns MTV, as well as BET and UPN, the latter two networks that target African Americans. Viacom Outdoor, a subsidiary of Viacom, bills itself as “the world’s largest out-of-home media company.”
“Let freedom ring” was taken from a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Black fist is a significant symbol in the African American community because it has long been seen as representative of “Black Power.”
“To take this phrase made popular by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for freedom and justice, and trivialize it in such a way is both disrespectful and unacceptable,” Pfleger said. “As we prepare to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, we will not tolerate this kind of brazen disrespect. Howard Stern may have managed to push his craziness on cable, but we should not have to tolerate it in our communities.”
[via Adfreak]
[UPDATE]
In related news, Adweek reports that Lamar Advertising, one of the nation’s largest outdoor advertising companies, has refused an ad sponsored by the New York-based Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License that shows an Arab holding a hand grenade and a driver’s license.
Saying that the advertiser was playing on racial fears to get its message across, the Baton Rouge, La., operator of more than 150,000 billboards rejected the ad planned for display in North Carolina and New Mexico.
The advertiser was able to run the ads on billboards operated by Magic Media.

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About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.